National Geographic

Henrietta Lacks, Genomes, And The Collaborations That Make Science Work

In the New York Times, I report on a pretty remarkable pair of events that have just taken place in the world of genome science–and both having to do with Henrietta Lacks. Cells taken from Lacks’s body in 1951–now known as HeLa cells–have revolutionized cell biology. But neither she nor her family had any say about their use. This woeful situation came to a head recently when it turned out that scientists had sequenced the genome of HeLa cells without any contact with the family. Now the NIH and the Lacks family have worked out an arrangement for controlling access to the genetic data, and today scientists unveiled a high-quality sequence of the genome full of interesting insights into cell biology. But, as I explain in my article, the ethics of genome sequencing are far from settled. Check it out. 

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